Moody's Investors Service raised Ford's debt ratings to investment-grade Tuesday for the first time in seven years. The upgrade means that all Ford's assets, including factories and the blue oval logo, are back in the company's hands and will no longer be used to secure the company's debt. Ford posted the assets as collateral in 2006 in order to get a $23.5 billion loan and avoid bankruptcy.
"This is a great day for us and is the result of several years of hard work and progress by everyone associated with Ford," Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. said in a statement.
Ford needed two ratings agencies to upgrade it to investment grade to get its assets back. Fitch Ratings upgraded the company last month. Standard and Poor's has not yet upgraded Ford.
Moody's said the upgrade reflects Ford's strength in North America and its expectation that it will continue to manage its money well. It also said it believes Ford can maintain its investment grade even in the face of a European downturn.
"The key factor in our considering an investment grade rating for Ford was whether or not the company would be able to sustain its strong performance," said Bruce Clark, Moody's senior vice president. "We concluded that the improvements Ford has made are likely to be lasting."
Ford lost its investment grade status in 2005 when it was racking up billions in losses as the SUV boom went bust. The company decided that a massive restructuring loan was worth risking its logo. The influx of cash helped Ford to revamp its cars and trucks and — unlike rivals General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group — avoid bankruptcy protection.
An investment-grade rating will further help the company's turnaround. Companies with investment grade credit ratings generally pay lower interest on debt because they're considered less likely to default. Ford will also have an easier time borrowing for projects like new plants in Asia.
Ford shares rose 16 cents, or nearly 2 percent, to $10.36 in after-hours trading.
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